Days after a group of heavily armed men seized a wildlife refuge building in the state of Oregon, federal authorities have concluded not to use armed force to drive the militia out of the building.
The armed men, many of them ranchers, accused the federal authorities of unfairly punishing poor ranchers who refused to sell and leave their lands to federal authorities.
They therefore stormed the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Burns, taking control of the area and calling for “patriots” in the United States to join them in the fight against the federal government.
Since the armed men took over the building on January 3, they have allowed journalists to have access to the area. They told journalists that they are ready to occupy the building for a very long time until the federal government reverses its land policy in the area.
But in a latest development, the federal government has decided to use soft power to force the militia out of the area, rather than engaging them with armed police or the military.
According to Occupy Democrat, federal authorities are now cutting power, roads and telephone lines in the occupied building.
Occupy Democrat quoted an unnamed official in Washington saying “It’s in the middle of nowhere. And it’s flat-ass cold up there. After they shut off the power, they’ll kill the phone service. Then, they’ll block all the roads so that all those guys have a long, lonely winter to think about what they’ve done.”
Weather experts say temperatures in the Burns area are expected to fall around 18 degrees Fahrenheit, with snowstorms expected over the next few days. The federal authorities therefore believe that cutting power supply and other services to the area will compel the militia to leave the building.
But when the militia allowed journalist to inspect the area being occupied, journalists reported that the men had reserved meat and fruits, indicating that they are fully prepared to stay in the area for a very long time.
Since the armed men took over the building, there have been different reports in the media. As some reports describe them as terrorists, others also say they are fighting for their rights.
However, from what we have gathered, federal authorities in the Harney County area have, over the years, been forcing ranchers to sell their lands in order to use them as conservation sites.
And what infuriated the men to take up arms is that a District Judge recently sentenced Dwight Lincoln Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46, to five years in prison for committing arsons on federal lands. Dwight and his son are both ranchers in Harney County.
CNN reported that prosecutors said the Hammonds set the fire, burning about 130 acres of land in 2001 to cover up poaching.
But the Hammonds defended themselves in court by stating they lit the fire to reduce the growth of invasive plants, and to protect their property from wildfires. However, their defense was blatantly rejected by the presiding judge, Ann Aiken.
Supporters of the Hammonds said the Hammonds were treated unconstitutionally because the two were convicted of arson under a provision of an expansive federal law punishing terrorism. And they both served their prison terms for 2001 and 2006 fires, but were then told by these same judges that they have to go back to prison to serve more.
Therefore, in solidarity with the Hammonds, and to show that they are fed up, some 300 people marched through the town of Burns on Saturday, January 2nd to protest against the decision of the court. They also protested against the federal authorities for unjustly encroaching and taking over their lands where their animals graze.
Then on Sunday, January 3rd, the ranchers organized themselves into a group, armed themselves heavily and seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, challenging the federal government for a showdown out of frustration. The ranchers claimed the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has taken over the space of some 100 ranches since the early 1900s.
Spokesman for the militia, Ammon Bundy has said that the Harney County area used to be the richest in state, but now, due to the actions of federal authorities of forcing ranchers to sell their lands, the area is now the poorest in the state. And the only way to solve the situation is to have armed “patriots” come and live in a de-facto self-rule zone independently of federal authorities.